It seems iTunes can't erase anything on my iPad!

How do I make iTunes capable of deleting from my iPad? And is it possible that iCloud / iTunes are somehow clashing with one another here?

Since updating to v11 of iTunes, iTunes seems incapable of erasing anything from my iPad. Every time I sync I am told that there's not enough room; needing on the order of 7-10GB of space to complete the sync.

Through iTunes I have disabled all sync types (Movies, Music, Podcasts, iTunes U) ... The only thing active is Apps and according to the size meter at the bottom of the iTunes, I should end up with 20GB of space free.

I apply my changes and request the sync and after flowing the steps it alerts me it needs 7GB more space on my iPad.

Additionally, when I sync photos, I have the same "can't erase" type behavior. I initiate the sync, select "Delete originals from my device after sync", the sync completes, and sure enough iPhoto continues to tell me that 45 photos remain "ready to sync" on the iPad.

Long time iTunes user... I'm pretty comfortable with the app at this point but this has me stumped.

Thanks in advance.


iMac 2006 Later  
OS X: 10.6.8  
iPad: 6.1.3  
iTunes: 11.0.2  
  • Did you restart both your iMac and your iPad already? I had similar issues in the past and restarting both sometimes helped.
    – nohillside
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 13:46
  • I did.. total shutdown on both. In fact the Mac updated iTunes -> 11.0.2 so I was hoping that either the restart or upgrade would help. No joy.
    – Lorin S.
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 19:39

1 Answer 1


This is a tricky thing to troubleshoot since once the iTunes tracking database or the iOS tracking database gets corrupt - what should sync and work starts to fail.

In the interest of putting out a concrete set of steps, here is how I fix things like this:

  1. Make a quick judgment - should I just restore the iOS device and start fresh or are there things on the device I need to back up and save?
  2. If I need to back things up, now I'm worried my backups might be corrupt too, so run one backup to iCloud and one to iTunes to be paranoid and safe.
  3. Then I spend 5 minutes deleting things I don't need on the phone (calendars, Mail, contacts that exist in the cloud), game apps that I don't care about losing progress or can re-dowload or sync via iCloud.
  4. Test the sync again.
  5. Continue spending 5 minutes paring non-essentials and testing until I'm left with just the really important things on the phone. I then export them or back them up and then erase the iOS device.

Again, it's painful to erase things and start over, but my experience is that this problem is almost always on the iOS device and can be cured by an erase and setting up sync again from scratch.

You could try the opposite tack / work from iTunes and stop syncing things one by one until you find the item or class that is causing issues. I've seen that work too, but it seems to fail to cure the underlying problem and I'll be back in iTunes micromanaging the sync settings in a week or a month so I now go for the erase / reinstall option.

The benefit of an erase install is that you test your backup and you have the chance to examine the things you care about / ditch the cruft that is on your phone. Rather than being forced to learn if your backup works when you lose a device or break it - you will learn now if restoring works and have chosen the time to test your restore.

Good Luck - hopefully you don't need to go all the way to erasing and setting up a new phone, but if you do and it fails, you can look squarely at your iTunes to blame for the issue.

  • Great info BMike.. thank you. I believe your erase and reset is the path I'll have to take. I already went through and did the whole "don't sync music... " sync.. fail .. "don't sync movies ... " sync ... fail... So I'm going to get a couple pared down backups and try that tack. I'll update the thread with results. Thank you.
    – Lorin S.
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 17:17
  • So interestingly enough.. a backup (local machine) -> iPad Reset -> Restore to Backup was enough to get the sync to kick in and I am now transferring files... I may have to back this statement out in a little while should an error pop but for now, it's moving. Great advice BMike. Thank you.
    – Lorin S.
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 20:10

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